Eurojust: Council adopts its mandate on new rules allowing the agency to preserve evidence of war crimes

(Source: Council of the EU and European Council)

Today the Permanent representatives to the EU adopted a mandate on new rules to allow Eurojust to preserve, analyse and store evidence relating to core international crimes, such as war crimes.

Following Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, there is a reasonable basis to believe that crimes against humanity and war crimes have been and are being committed in Ukraine. The EU will take, as a matter of urgency, all necessary measures to ensure that those who committed those crimes in Ukraine are held accountable.

Prosecution services at the International Criminal Court and in several member states, as well as in Ukraine, have started investigations concerning these events. Coordination and exchange of evidence between prosecuting authorities in different jurisdictions is important to ensure the effectiveness of these investigations. In addition, due to the ongoing hostilities there is a risk that evidence related to war crimes cannot be safely stored on the territory of Ukraine and therefore it is appropriate to establish a central storage at a safe place.

The draft new rules will allow Eurojust to:

  • store and preserve evidence related to war crimes, including satellite images, photographs, videos, audio recordings, DNA profiles and fingerprints
  • process and analyse this evidence, in close cooperation with Europol, and share it with the relevant national and international authorities, including the International Criminal Court

Next steps

On the basis of this position, an agreement will now need to be reached with the European Parliament so that this regulation can be adopted and enter into force as soon as possible.

Background

At the beginning of March, all EU member states, together with other partner states, decided to collectively refer the situation in Ukraine to the International Criminal Court. At the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 4 March, ministers encouraged Eurojust to fully exercise its coordinating role and to make itself available as required to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

Apart from the investigation by the ICC prosecutor, the General Prosecutor of Ukraine has opened an investigation, and the authorities of several member states have opened national investigations. A Joint Investigation Team has also been established by the judicial authorities of Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine, with the support of Eurojust and the participation of the office of the prosecutor of the ICC.

A number of other initiatives to support the collection of evidence of possible war crimes have been developed, including financial and operational support for the ICC and various types of support for the Ukrainian authorities.

In its conclusions of 24-25 March, the European Council reiterated that Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine grossly violates international law and is causing massive loss of life and injury to civilians. Russia is directing attacks against the civilian population and is targeting civilian objects, including hospitals, medical facilities, schools and shelters. These war crimes must stop immediately. Those responsible, and their accomplices, will be held to account in accordance with international law.

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